CULTIVATE, a Spiritual Life Development (SLD) course of the Eastern Territory, is entering its 6th cohort. The desire and need for going deeper with God are evident as this spiritual formation course continues to grow and evolve. There is something beautiful about a community of believers who spiritually root themselves through personal growth, discussions, retreats, and creating a rule of life as they deepen their relationship with God.
Their rootedness in CULTIVATE is evident in how cohort members continue to thrive in their personal lives, in local communities, and in the broader Salvation Army world. The modules for the program include: spiritual disciplines, personal retreat, devotional classics, community, social justice, helps to holiness, cohort retreat, healthy self, Christmas reflections, and planning forward. This structured program provides support to each cohort member and thrives by bringing soldiers and officers together during the 11–month program. Here are some of the stories of transformation shared by past cohort members beginning with an excerpt from Lt. Colonel Widiawati Tampai, territorial secretary for Women’s Ministries in Indonesia.
“I have seen the changes in my life through this course. I have more self–control. I have developed my reading habit, particularly of spiritual formation books. I have more hunger for God and for an intimate relationship with Him. I meditate more on Scripture, restoration, and renewal. I have more confidence in my true identity in Christ.
“As this course has been done online, I am encouraged and inspired that it is really important to keep myself accountable.”
Transformation, restoration, renewal and a deeper relationship with God are just some of the experiences encountered in CULTIVATE.
Kris Hevenor, corps sergeant major at the Lowell, Mass., Corps, shared this thought.
“This year, I have decided to join the Renovaré Book Club.* I realized that I have really missed the accountability and guidance of CULTIVATE, so this seemed like a good next step.”
Once you commit to embracing a deeper spiritual formation in your life, it becomes part of the natural rhythm. Taking the next steps to seek ways of staying in that rhythm are not only important, but essential in building our relationship with God.
Lisa Collier, spiritual formation secretary for the Philadelphia, (Citadel) Pa., Corps, and cohort member, shared how CULTIVATE has taken root at the divisional and corps levels in Philadelphia.
“The Philadelphia Citadel corps has made the spiritual development of their soldiers a priority. Majors Eduardo and Janet Zuniga, corps officers, expressed their desire that soldiers be spiritually grounded and seeking to go deeper in their walk with the Lord. To achieve this, the corps established two new ministries. The first is a Spiritual Formation seminar, which started with a four–week foundational workshop in February 2018 and has been followed up with a monthly meeting focused on the practice of spiritual disciplines. Many who attend these workshops have experienced traditional disciplines such as solitude, silence, and fasting for the first time and have grown in their practice of other disciplines such as study, prayer, and meditation. Through these workshops, members of the corps have deepened their personal relationship with God, which has poured into their congregational lives.
“At the monthly meetings, the corps will be using many of the texts from CULTIVATE. At present, we are completing The Celebration of Discipline (Foster). Just at last week’s meeting, we had a time of sharing how we have been impacted by these monthly gatherings. Many said that they can see how God is using the practices of disciplines, once unfamiliar, to transform areas of their lives, such as being more attentive and listening to what God has to say and in their interaction with others.”
Lisa also shared that, at the divisional level:
“In January 2019 we started a divisional Spiritual Formation Book Club using CourseSites (by Blackboard). While this is a small group, we do have a mix of soldiers, officers, and even one retired officer in the group. The format is very much like CULTIVATE. However, I have slowed down the pace of the books to make it more accessible to those who may not have as much time to commit to the material. For instance, The Celebration of Discipline will take us 13 weeks; 1 week for each chapter. I have replaced Wilderness Time with Invitation to Retreat (Barton). I have also added Sacred Rhythms (Barton). In addition, I am adding some material, such as links to web articles, videos or podcasts that offer more insight into the topic.”
CULTIVATE is flourishing as a program and as a way of introducing spiritual formation to anyone who has a longing for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God. This intimate, small group interaction nourishes this community of believers and allows for meaningful connection throughout the course. Many lifelong relationships have come from CULTIVATE and encourage a bond in the Christian community.
God has designed us for holistic growth physically, mentally, emotionally and most definitely spiritually. If you are hungering for more of what the Lord has to do in you and through you, CULTIVATE will help give focus to what is needed to “have the roots of your being firmly and deeply planted in Him…” Colossians 2:7.
by Joanna Polarek
* Renovaré publishes print and online resources including books, articles, messages, and podcasts.
Subject: Spiritual Disciplines
Celebration of Discipline
Subject: Social Justice
The God of Intimacy & Action
Subject: Devotional Classics
Helps to Holiness
Subject: Advent Reading & Reflection
Advent & Christmas
Subject: Personal Retreat
Subject: Healthy Self
The Life of the Body